Ashes 2023: Jonny Bairstow’s form and fitness ‘a huge concern’, says Mark Butcher


Birmingham, June 19 (IANS) Former England cricketer Mark Butcher believes form and fitness of returning wicketkeeper-batter Jonny Bairstow remain major concerns and said that the team think-tank must have factored in his rustiness behind the stumps when opting to pick him over Ben Foakes.

After making an aggressive 78 with the bat in England’s first innings in the opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston, Bairstow took an outstanding catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne for a golden duck on day two’s play. But he also missed three easy opportunities — a stumping, followed by two catches — reigniting a debate on his wicketkeeping preparedness.

“It’s incredible, that attitude of just trying to create chances no matter the cost, and just how discombobulating that can be for batters who are used to playing the game in a completely different way at a completely different rhythm is wonderful to behold, and that’s not something we should be surprised about.”

You mentioned 15 chances. Jonny Bairstow catches an absolute blinder to get rid of Marnus Labuschagne and then bins three much more straightforward ones later on, so there’s another talking point coming back to us again,” said Butcher on Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast.

Bairstow’s selection over Foakes for the ongoing 2023 Ashes had sparked a lot of debate in terms of match fitness and wicket-keeping skills, especially after the former had been out of competitive cricketing action for more than seven months due to a broken leg sustained last year in August.

“That’s all baked into the decision that they made a long time back, and that’s how they want to go about it. My issue with the whole thing was more what it would potentially do to Jonny Bairstow’s runmaking prowess at No.5.

The fact that he is not in the greatest form and fitness to keep wicket after that terrible broken leg in five Test matches in six weeks, of course it’s a huge concern. It’s exactly the same concern as I have with bringing Moeen Ali out of retirement, and we’re seeing how that’s working out for us at the moment,” added Butcher.

Butcher further explained that England are willing to accept gaffes from Bairstow behind the stumps, as they have the potential to cover up for them with their ultra-attacking approach with the bat.

“These decisions are baked into a philosophy that says, ‘We will go out there with our most attacking, our most pugnacious line-up, and if there are a few mistakes along the way, so be it. We’ll make enough chances or score enough runs to cover up for the errors elsewhere’,” he said. 

“I’m not making excuses for it because I don’t need to. What I’m saying is, with things like that, you can say, with this aggressive brand of cricket, those types of things are baked in. You’re going to get misses like that. You’re going to get errors like that,” he added



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